Welcoming Myanmar as a new member of the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said the nation will play a key role in linking South Asia with Southeast and East Asia.
"Now comprising seven members, we welcome Myanmar as newest member, to play key role in linking South Asia with Southeast and East Asia," Jaitley said here at the SASEC Finance Ministers' meeting.
The SASEC programme of Asian Development Bank (ADB) is expanding towards the East with Myanmar formally becoming the seventh member in 2017.
Jaitley, along with finance ministers of SASEC countries, which comprise Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka, launched SASEC Vision 2017-25 for the economic growth of the sub-region.
He said: "The collective vision is to sustain sub-regional growth through enhanced cooperation. Improved connectivity, infrastructure development would help all."
He further noted that the pursuit of transport, trade facilitation, energy security will be a means to sustainable growth and improved SASEC engagement will empower Asia in the 21st century.
The meeting was attended by the seven finance ministers apart from officials from these countries and ADB.
Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das delivered the welcome address at the event.
Das said that Myanmar is key to realising greater connectivity and stronger trade and economic relations between the SASEC sub-region and the countries of East and Southeast Asia and that Myanmar's membership in SASEC can offer a host of opportunities for realising synergies from economic cooperation in the sub-region.
SASEC member countries recognised that most of SASEC's multi-modal connectivity initiatives include Myanmar. Road corridors in Myanmar provide the key links between South Asia and Southeast Asia. Ports in Myanmar will provide additional gateways to the landlocked North Eastern region of India.
"Development of multi-modal connectivity between North Eastern region of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar has the potential of unleashing tremendous economic energy in the sub-region," a statement from the Finance Ministry said.
"SASEC's energy connectivity and energy trade prospects will be enhanced with the inclusion of Myanmar, involving its substantial resources of hydropower and natural gas. Moreover, developmental impacts of economic corridor in the SASEC sub-region will be maximised by exploring potential synergies with corridors in Myanmar that are linked to those in other Southeast Asian countries," it said.
Myanmar was accorded an observer status of SASEC in 2013 when ADB's annual meeting was held in India. Myanmar has been participating in annual SASEC Nodal Officials' meetings as an observer since 2014. It was invited by the participating countries of SASEC countries to become a full member in 2015.
The SASEC programme was formed in 2001 in response to the request of the four countries of South Asia — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal — from ADB to assist in facilitating economic cooperation among them.
These four countries comprise the South Asia Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ), formed in 1996, as a vehicle for accelerating sustainable economic development through regional cooperation.
As a project-based partnership, the SASEC programme has been helping realise regional prosperity by enhancing cross-border connectivity, facilitating faster and more efficient trade and promoting cross-border power trade.
Maldives and Sri Lanka joined SASEC in 2014, further expanding opportunities for enhancing economic linkages in the sub-region.